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Wood-en it be nice?

Everett Israel is a carpenter at heart

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013 4:20 p.m. CDT

Some people may see a block of wood as just that ... a simple block of wood.

But when Everett Israel picks up that piece of wood, he envisions what it could become — possibly a set of salad bowls, a spice rack, cutting boards or even a mantle clock. Israel also sees beyond the type of wood before him and imagines how he could entertwine that wood, possibly a walnut or maple, with a piece of exotic wood like a blood red, lace or purple heart, to create a striping or a checkerboard design to ultimately make a truly unique, one-of-a-kind finished product.

For Israel, his woodworking is about imagining and then creating something that wasn't there before.

Working from the basement workshop in his Lake Thunderbird home in Putnam County, Israel said he learned most of the basics of woodworking through reading magazines, and then by putting what he'd read into practice. The more advanced aspects of woodworking, like the striping and checkerboarding, he taught himself. Today, hundreds of creations later, Israel continues to learn ... to imagine ... to create.

The front section of Israel's basement workshop is lined with tables for his cutting tools and machines, including saws and routers and a sander, with sanding discs up to 400 grit. In the back section of the basement, a table holds a couple dozen finished or nearly finished, bowls, dishes and containers. Next to the table are several tubs and shelves filled with wooden patterns which Israel created himself, along with projects in various stages of completion, along with glues, varnishes, oils and stacks of wood boards.

Picking up a plank of wood, Israel said he gets some of his wood online, but the majority of his wood he buys from a lumber company in Michigan and from various saw mills. His favorite types of wood are some of the exotic woods, which may originate in South America or Africa, like the blood red and purple heart. Their color is unique, and the wood is hard, not given to splintering, he said.

On any given day, he may work on multiple projects, Israel said. Some pieces are special orders which he does for others. Some things remain in his home. Many are given away as gifts to friends and family members.

Looking back at when he first began woodworking, Israel said he taught woodworking years ago as a graduate assistant at the University of Maryland, and it's been a hobby ever since. He began spending more time on his woodworking about six years ago when he retired as a college professor in the industrial technology field, having served as department head at his last college for 22 years.

Israel's expertise in woodworking is well-respected, not only locally but around the country. He was even featured in the December 2011-January 2012 issue of Wood magazine.

Though Israel and his wife close the door to the Lake Thunderbird home each fall, get in their motor home and head to Florida for the winter, he doesn't let his creative bend go dormant in the winter. In Florida, he and another friend are in charge of a woodworking club they started. The club has grown from 15 people to about 50 people. In that first year, the group made 160 bowls. Last winter, the group made another 300 bowls. It's been great teaching others and seeing their ability and enthusiasm for woodworking grow, he said.

Though one lesson is taught, one project completed, there is always another person to teach, another project to start. There is something about woodworking that is captivating, and his finished projects give him a sense of great pride and satisfaction.

That sense of creativity and that sense of precision, which is involved in woodworking, is what he loves about the art, Israel said.

So as he holds another piece of wood in his hand, like a blank slate for the drawing, Israel can be confident of one thing ... If he can envision that piece of wood as transformed into something unique and beautiful, chances are he can figure out a way to make it happen and enjoy himself in the process.

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